Soaring student receives Provost’s Award for outstanding achievement
Natalie Gramer helps open doors for more women in aviation while working on her dual major.
When Natalie Gramer pilots a plane, the world below recedes. “It just makes sense,” she said. “You look out over the city, at the views in front of you, and everything melts away.”
Planes are the 28-year-old pilot and ground instructor’s happy place, and she thrives under pressure in the cockpit. During a practical exam, Tyler Bachelder, associate professor of Aviation and Aerospace Science, recalled that one of Gramer’s instruments stopped working. She took it in stride, navigating with the help of a backup magnetic compass.
“The only thing that rivals her natural piloting ability is her confidence as a pilot in command in any situation,” Bachelder said.
This fall, Gramer will graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a 3.96 GPA and two degrees: a Bachelor of Science in Aviation and Aerospace Science and a Bachelor of Arts in English. Gramer is the newest recipient of the Provost’s Award, conferred for her academic achievement and her commitment to community service.
Though her aspirations lie skyward, the pilot said service keeps her grounded. “Being a student at MSU Denver has really shaped me into a professional, but it’s also helped give me dedication and a passion for servitude to others,” she said.
As a licensed commercial pilot and a woman, Gramer is part of a minority in the profession. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, women made up just 4.9% of the aviation industry in 2021. Though that number is growing, Gramer says she has long been painfully aware that she’s an outlier.
At first, “I had no idea what I was doing,” she said. “I felt very isolated, very alone.” Then, she helped co-found a chapter of Women in Aviation International at MSU Denver, serving as its president and connecting with other women with a future in aviation and aeronautics.
“Creating that community and watching it blossom over the years has really helped shape me into someone who looks out for others,” she said. The group has grown into one of the most thriving student organizations on campus, and in 2022 Gramer also helped revive the University’s chapter of Alpha Eta Rho, an aviation-focused fraternity, on campus.
But Gramer hasn’t always been the confident award winner. During the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, she said, she underwent a crisis of confidence that affected her flying and her future. “The aviation industry kind of fell apart” during that period, she recalled. “I thought, I’m investing all this time and money in myself, but what am I going to do when I graduate?” Gramer decided to give herself more opportunities by pursuing a double degree.
“I’m coming out of my time at MSU Denver with two different roads I can go down,” she said.
“Eventually, I can marry the two and write about my experiences or even write fiction to engage younger female pilots.”
For now, Gramer plans to pursue her certification as a flight instructor and help train pilots in metro Denver. She says the best thing about the Provost’s Award is the visibility it will give her — a platform she can use to encourage and inspire others.
“I can give my graduating class something to ponder,” she said. “I want to send them off at Commencement with all the love and support and encouragement I have for the University.”